National Geographic : 1908 Jul
494 THE NATIONAL GE exposed rocks or dangerous reefs within the bay itself, except immediately ad jacent to the shore, and ships can safely enter this bay on the darkest nights, hug ging the east shore within Ioo yards if necessary, in perfect security. A simpler way of getting an idea of the depth of water in Cochinos Bay would be to imagine the water level to fall 25 feet. This would hardly change the position or form of the east coast. The west shore, however, would advance about a quarter of a mile at the upper end of the bay and gradually increase to two miles at Punta del Padre, and then run ten miles seaward in a southeasterly direction to Cayo Piedra,making the west coast about twenty-five miles in length. The bay would then appear a very long and narrow, almost land-locked, body of very deep water. The tide averages less than eighteen inches. West of the south end of the bay there are vast lagoons, with innumerable small islands entirely covered with mangrove trees. The water varies from eighteen inches to several feet in depth, and my launch being of light draft, it was found practicable to ex plore these island seas without difficulty. Charts do not correctly show the great extent nor true form of this interesting region. WONDERS OF TROPICAL MARINE LIFE Among the beautiful shells of the west coast sand beaches were pieces of spongy volcanic rock, purple and green in color, which may have had their origin in the eruptions in Martinique. As may be imagined, the water in this deep bay is of the utmost purity and clearness. The color is blue, rivaling that of the Mediterranean, and the bot tom may be clearly seen in forty or fifty feet of water. The wonders of tropical marine life afford a never-ending source of delightful study. On bright, calm mornings one can look down through fathoms of crystal water and see the sun light sparkling on snow-white beds of coral sand. Among branching corals, Neptune's cups, sponges, and purple sea fans, fish of many strange forms and colors may be seen gliding to and fro, )GRAPHIC MAGAZINE apparently within grasp of the hand the blue llora, the red and green parrot fish, the red-snapper, and the spotted cherna. On moonlight nights, moving rapidly through the water in a launch, one feels as though sailing over an en chanted sea of crystal, where every rip ple is faintly outlined with phosphores cent fire. The bay is a fisherman's paradise. The rapacious and dangerous picua is caught by trolling from rapidly moving sailing craft, but still fishing in deep water gives better results. Sharks often bite fish off the hooks before they can be landed, unless the line is taken in rapidly. Sea turtles of several varieties and the shell-bearing tortoise abound, the Cuban tortoise-shell being the most beautifully variegated and high-priced in the world. Sometimes the water surface for an acre in extent may be seen disturbed by a vio lent commotion of terrified and strug gling fish when pursued by some larger enemies. Hundreds of sea-gulls add to the confusion, darting down on the water and catching the fish in midair. A DELIGHTFUL CLIMATE The climate is similar to other parts of Cuba, which is supposedly the most de lightful of any within the tropics. The maximum and minimum temperatures at Cochinos Bay for nearly two years were 96° and 48°, the nights never being over 80°. The dry season lasts from Novem ber to May, and is characterized by nearly continuous sunshiny days. There is a popular misconception of the tropical rainy season as it obtains in Cuba. Rain may fall at any time of the year, even in the dry season, but, on the contrary, the rainy season is often interrupted by long periods of dry weather. The wind comes off the land at night, changing in the forenoon to the "virazon," or sea breeze which increases with the sun's heat, and is succeeded by calm at sunset. Thunder storms are short and violent and often accompanied by heavy squalls. In June. 1906, more than seven inches of rain fell in a single night; but such excessive pre cipitation is rare.